DISCLAIMER: I don't own Dragonball-Z, not really sure who does either. It'd be a shame if people I don't know sued me. J v

THE KILL: Empty Shell

Poi strutted inside like she owned the place, followed by Kyichi who walked in stiffly as if he expected something to attack him once he passed through the patio doors.

After appraising Yamucha's living room, Poi whistled. "There's nothing like living in a monastery to make you really appreciate the fancier things in life."

Yamucha turned to Krillin and said, "Did she say monastery?"

"Yep that's what I said, pops," Poi answered as she plopped onto one of the black leather sofas in front of the TV. Then put her feet up on the coffee table, crossing one ankle over the other.

Make yourself at home. Yamucha thought acerbically at the girl but said, "Will you stop calling me that."

"Would it be really cliché if I went ahead and said whatever you say pops?"

"Poi, behave," Krillin told the girl in an admonishing tone, but Yamucha could see the monk was barely suppressing a smile.

"Yes, my master," Poi replied with a kinky grin. "Hey, where's the remote for the big screen?"

Yamucha ignored the girl's question and turned back to Krillin again. But the bald man was watching Kyichi, his brow furrowed. The boy hadn't ventured very far into the house. He stood ramrod straight near the patio door, his gaze following Puar as the shape shifter fluttered around him. The severity of Kyichi's expression worried Yamucha that the boy might strike out at his closest companion.

Kyichi, however, remained utterly still, and kept his arms clasped behind his back.

Man, who are these kids? I wonder if they're related—sister and brother maybe? Not that they act anything alike. Huh! But then I don't act much like my brother either.

"Kyichi, I see you guys learned how to fly."

"Yes, Sensei," the boy answered, his voice was toneless. Almost bored.

"Oh, and thanks for leaving us on that schizophrenic island by the way. It was so fun!" Poi chimed in from the sofa, the sarcasm in her voice was clear.

"Uh, Krillin, you got something you wanna tell me?"

Krillin took his gaze from Kyichi and looked up at Yamucha.

"Hey… pop… uh, Yamucha? Don't I know you from somewhere?" Poi interrupted again.

"He is one of the warriors that fought along side Sensei against the aliens that attacked Earth over a year ago. He also plays for a major league baseball team… I don't recall the name of the team though," Kyichi answered without taking his eyes from Puar.

"Oh, yeah, I remember now," Poi looked the ex-bandit over, a sly grin spreading over her face. "You have a nice ass."

Krillin moaned covering his eyes with his right hand, shaking his head.

Yamucha felt himself blush from head to toe.

"Well, it's true! Something about those tight, high water baseball pants. Mmm!"

"Okay, that's it! Krillin, you're going to tell me everything!" Yamucha exclaimed his face was burning up from embarrassment, literally steaming.

"Maybe later. Poi, Kyichi, let's go."

The girl had found the remote moments earlier and already clicked on the TV. She barely turned her gaze from the screen and grunted, "Hmm, not now. Dr. Slump."

"Yes, now. Let's see what you two have learned."

"Sorry, I already had my work out today."

"Care to elaborate?"

Poi kept staring at the big screen, "Kyichi went nuts and almost killed me."

Krillin turned to the boy, "Kyichi are you all right?"

"Hello? I'm the one who got attacked!"

"I'm fine, Sensei,"

Puar landed on Kyichi's right shoulder and curled her tail around his neck, nuzzling against the boy's cheek. Kyichi stared at Puar sideways and had yet to soften his expression. Yamucha was starting to believe it was the natural state of the kid's face.

"Yeah, I'm fine too," Poi sulked from the couch.

"Good. Then let's go to Kame House so you can show me what you got."

"No way, I refuse! That old hentai keeps feeling me up! I categorically refuse!"

"Well, you're a little stronger then him now, just hit him a couple of times and he'll leave you alone," Krillin suggested to the girl.

Poi finally turned her head away from the TV.

"Really? I'm stronger then Master Roshi?" She asked.

"Yes. You and Kyichi are stronger then Kamesennin. Right, you two's next lesson is going to be on sensing ki levels. Let's go."

Poi nodded soberly and flicked off the TV with the remote as she got up from the sofa, tossing the remote onto the cushion she vacated. Then Krillin, Poi, and Kyichi walked to the patio door in a single file. Puar vacated Kyichi's shoulder as the boy went through it, and floated over onto Yamucha's shoulder.

The youths took to the air the moment they were outside. Krillin had stepped aside and let his students pass by him then turned back to the thresh hold, looking at Yamucha. The monk was smiling broadly. "Yamucha, nobody said so before, but thanks for saving Gohan. No one else could have. Goodbye."

Yamucha knodded absently as he scratched Puar between her ears, her appreciative purrs relaxing him. He really wanted to talk about Krillin's students, but he knew the other man wasn't going to tell him what he wanted to know. When did Krillin become so secretive?

Krillin lifted into the air and started to follow his students.

"Krillin!" Yamucha called out before the monk moved too far away.

Krillin halted and turned in mid-air and looked down at the former bandit.

"Don't get too caught up in training your students. It's our turn in the Room of Spirit and Time in three days."

Krillin stared at the other man blankly. "Remember? King Kold will be here in less then five days and we all said we'd train in the Room before he gets here: Piccolo and Gokou first, Ten and Chou-zu next, then you and me."

Krillin continued to stare at Yamucha expressionless, then a sad smile touched his lips. "Sure Yamucha, I remember. Three days, see you then," Krillin launched forward and quickly caught up with Poi and Kyichi.

Krillin backed away from Kyichi, his arms held out in front of him defensively. Poi lurked somewhere behind him, but for the moment, the boy was the more immediate threat.

A wave of sand exploded out behind Kyichi as he shot forth. Krillin held his ground waiting until Kyichi was nearly on top of him. When the boy came within an arms-length Krillin swung his left hand down at the ground, throwing ki off his fingertips, which sent up an eight-foot wall of sand between Kyichi and himself. Krillin performed a forward tuck flip over the grainy barrier and landed with his back to Kyichi, then he lowered, pivoted on his left foot, and aimed a leg sweep at the boy's shin. Kyichi dodged the tripping maneuver, leaping six feet into the air, his legs spread eagle and completely parallel to the ground.

Poi came in underneath Kyichi, her arms bent and her fists tucked in tight at her sides. She wasn't flying; she'd jumped from her position with enough force that she was propelling herself over the beach with great speed. Still in a crouch, Krillin did some jumping of his own and let Poi sail beneath him, avoiding her over extended punch.

"Shit!" Poi yelled.

Krillin brought his feet down onto Poi's back and stomped her stomach first into the ground.

Kyichi was on him again, allowing Krillin no breathing room. The monk stepped off of Poi's back and kicked her away. The young woman cursed again as she went hurdling into the ocean.

Kyichi threw punches at Krillin; his form was perfect. He alternated between closed fists, half fists, and flat-handed chops, which made whipping sounds as they sliced through the air. Krillin blocked them all. He could have avoided the attacks, but the boy wouldn't have learned anything from that. As expected, Kyichi changed tactics once he realized he wasn't getting anywhere with simple fisticuffs. Instead of letting his punches get blocked or redirected, Kyichi started attacking the blocks themselves. His strikes became more intricate, and he utilized pressure point techniques Krillin taught him months ago. The knuckles and the edges of Kyichi's fists and hands pounded against specific nerves in Krillin's arms, striving to inflict as much pain as he could.

The expression on his youthful face was determined and yet somehow passionless.

Krillin winced with every blow. He was keeping his ki low, effectively reducing his power level to a fraction of his true strength. So the precise hits hurt more then they would have ordinarily. Kyichi, sensing that his attacks were having some affect on his sensei, pressed forward and added a series of kicks to his assault. Mostly using his kicks as distractions to pave the way for better hits with his hands.

Then Krillin and Kyichi stopped. Both turned to the ocean just in time to witness Poi explode out of the water and shoot into the air. Krillin sensed a huge build up of ki in the girl and watched in amazement as she pulled her hands to her side, water cascading from her black gi and her long ebony hair.

"Son of a bitch!" She screamed her hands starting to glow faintly. The expression on her face was one of absolute rage.

"She's going to do it again," Kyichi said. His usually flat monotone voice held just the slightest hint of interest.

Krillin continued to gape up at the young woman, dumbfounded. Her power was sky rocketing as she readied an energy wave. Impossible! It took me three years to learn Kamehameha! Poi couldn't have in just eleven months!

Krillin turned to Kyichi.

"When?"

"On the island. She said she used it against me when I was trying to kill her," Kyichi replied.

"Can you--?"

"No."

Poi screamed again and unleashed the energy from her hands at Krillin and Kyichi. She's going to blow up half the island with that beam! Krillin thought as he too began to power up.

The monk yelled at Kyichi to move away.

Krillin raised his arms up and caught the beam in the palm of his hands then fired off a burst of ki, pushing Poi's energy wave back. The two beams exploded, the epicenter emitting a bright flash as ki dispersed in every direction above Krillin and Kyichi's heads.

When the brightness was gone, Krillin narrowed his eyes angrily up at Poi.

The young woman was slowly drifting from over the water, her back hunched forward, and her chest heaving. She made it as far as the shore then she couldn't hold her place in the sky anymore. The moment her booted feet touched the ground she collapsed.

Poi fell asleep where she lay. Krillin sensed her ki decrease, his expression softening as his anger at her carelessness evaporated.

"What are you three doing out here!" Kamesennin shouted at the trio leaning out of his upstairs bedroom window. "I'm trying get some important reading done!"

"Sorry, Master Roshi," Krillin apologized to the old martial arts master.

"You can show you're sorry by not making so much noise, I was just going over an important document that needs to be thoroughly examined!"

"What did you think you were doing?" Krillin asked the young woman across form him. Sensei and student occupied the kitchen in Kame House, sitting on opposite ends of the dinner table. Poi was seated backwards in one of four wooden dinner chairs around the table, her arms wrapped around its backrest facing Krillin who sat properly in his dinner chair, her elbows resting on the tabletop. Krillin was fully expecting a flippant remark from the girl and wasn't disappointed.

Poi rolled her eyes, "Way to go Poi, you learned your very first ki attack, I'm proud of you! What an excellent student you are!"

Krillin closed his eyes and moved his hands to either side of his head, firmly massaging his throbbing temples with his fingertips in slow, circular motions. "You're missing the whole point, Poi…"

Poi snorted. "Point Poi!"

Krillin ignored her, "You can't go around shooting ki blasts without learning control, both mentally and physically. Otherwise, you'll end up destroying yourself or someone else."

"I hate losing all right? Fucking hate it!"

"Well, get use to it. You're not at Orinji anymore and you aren't the strongest fighter there is. Believe me."

"Whatever," Poi blew air from her lips and rolled her eyes again. Krillin felt like strangling her, and decided to leave the kitchen before he did. Standing up from the table, Krillin walked out of the room taking long calming breaths.

Master Roshi was watching television when Krillin entered the darkened living room. The old master lounged in his easy chair, his red rimmed, tinted spectacles reflecting the images on the TV. The small screen cast a powdery blue pallor on his gray mustachioed face.

"She needs a thrashing," Master Roshi said out of nowhere.

Krillin stared at his former master in confusion.

"Huh?"

"Poi. She's too cocky, she won't learn anything from you if she thinks she already knows everything." Roshi stated without taking his gaze away from the TV. "She needs her ass kicked."

Krillin was appalled. Surely, Master Roshi wasn't telling him to beat his own student?

"I can't do that!"

"You're going to have to."

"But Master Roshi, you never beat up on me and Gokou when you trained us!"

"You two respected me and what I had to teach you."

"Poi respects…" Krillin started but stopped mid-sentence when Master Roshi looked at him. Krillin saw the old man's left eyebrow arch above his glasses.

"Me," Krillin finished, suddenly finding his new boots very interesting.

Krillin made dinner for the four of them; the meal consisted of broiled fish, steamed vegetables, and rice. Poi ate enthusiastically, replenishing the energy she lost after their short training session. She dominated all conversation during the meal and occasionally shouted at Kamesennin when he played footsie with her under the table.

Kyichi sat quietly, eating the food on his plate with mechanical efficiency.

Roshi invited Krillin, Poi, and Kyichi to stay the night before he sauntered off to bed. Grinning lecherously at Poi he said, "You can have the room next to mine."

"I rather sleep in the Zenmaizobrei Mountains, old man. Naked."

"Oh, really?" Kamesennin said perking up at the mention of Poi's nudity.

"Thanks, Master Roshi, I think we will spend the night," Krillin interjected, accepting his one time master's offer before Poi could retort.

"I'm not tired," Kyichi said and left the house, stepping out into the night.

"Me neither. I think I'll wait until He's gone to sleep," Poi pointed at Roshi and then followed Kyichi outside.

The old master chuckled, "Good night Krillin. Nice having you back for a visit." Kamesennin ascended to the top of the stairs and after a few moments Krillin heard a door close.

The sun had gone down hours earlier and darkness fell hard around the island. The two pupils had used ki-dried driftwood to build a fire on the beach. The snap and crackling of the pyre could faintly be heard over the soft crashing of the ocean as its waves washed over the shore.

Kyichi and Poi sat on opposite sides of the fire. Kyichi had his back to the water staring into the flames; an eerie red glow burned in his dark eyes and turned his skin orange. His legs were folded lotus style; his right forearm was resting on his leg, while he stoked the fire with a thin tree branch in his left hand.

Poi's side was to the campfire. Her arms were behind her, supporting her upper body as she leaned back. Her legs out-stretched, one ankle crossed over the other.

She was also gazing into the fire.

"Hey, guys," Krillin greeted, joining them. Kyichi gave the barest of nods without looking away from the blaze.

"Hey, Brother," Poi returned with a lazy smile. Krillin frowned at the young woman.

"Krillin or Kuririn will be fine, Poi."

"Whoa, sorry! The other monks always wanted me to refer to them as Brother."

"Like I said before Poi, you're not at the monastery anymore."

"Yeah, yeah. So… tell me about all these people that are supposedly stronger then I am."

"Why?"

"Because I like hearing fairy tales," Poi grinned.

Krillin returned a smirk, a teasing glint in his eyes, "Every single fighter stronger then you, huh? Gee, I think it's getting a little late to mention them all."

"Tee-Hee."

"Tell us about Gokou," Kyichi spoke up. Krillin turned to Kyichi, mildly surprised, and saw that the boy was still staring at the campfire, his perpetually stoic expression unchanged. Like he hadn't spoken at all.

"Well, Gokou is my best friend. We trained under Kamesennin together for six years."

"Is he as strong as you?" Poi asked.

Krillin laughed lightly, "Way stronger then me. You could put ten of me together and still not come close to his power. Gokou's the strongest fighter in the world."

"But he wasn't always, was he? I mean, you had to have been equal once?" Kyichi asked, further surprising Krillin because this was the most conversation the boy had ever participated in outside their teacher-student discussions.

"That's true. Back when we first met I was stronger then Gokou. And for a long time we were near equals."

"If you were always close to that guy's…"

"Gokou."

"Yeah, Gokou's level, what happened?" Poi asked.

"Well, after I was wished back to life--"

"Wished back to life!" Poi exclaimed.

"It's a long story. After I was wished back to life, I realized that being a great warrior wasn't what I really wanted out of life. There's nothing to show for it. You spend your whole life perfecting your mind and body, but in the end, if you're lucky, you just end up growing old and weaker. Sure it might take longer then with untrained people, but time catches up. Like Kamesennin, he worked his whole life to become the greatest martial artist in the world, the Unrivaled Master, and for awhile he was."

Krillin paused, reached out with his right hand and waved it palm down over the fire. He felt the heat even through the unconscious layer of ki surrounding his body, and tough calluses. He pulled his hand back and continued.

"But then other fighters started surpassing him, especially Gokou, and Master Roshi retired to Kame House with that impressive collection of his. And that's all he has to claim after a hundred years of fighting. So, anyway, I started slacking off, not training as hard as I should have. Gokou didn't practice as much either after he got married, but he still trained more then I did, and as a Saiyan-jin he just naturally stayed strong--"

"Saiyan-jin?" Kyichi hissed, his eyes blazing in way that had nothing to do with the light from the campfire. His voice noticeably strained. "He's an alien?"

Krillin knodded, and wondered if he heard fury in the boy's voice. Then Kyichi seemed to realize that his detached façade was down and quickly regained control. Saying nothing more, Kyichi went back to stirring the fire.

Both Krillin and Poi studied the boy for a few moments then looked at each other. Poi shrugged. "SO… what do you want out of life if fighting isn't the end all be all anymore?"

"A family. Wife, kids… lots of kids."

"Hm, sounds boring," Poi said.

Two days later, Krillin landed on the Lookout just before Tenshinhan and Chou-zu were due to emerge from the Room of Spirit and Time. He wore a new orange and blue gi, and this time he remembered to put on his boots. A navy blue duffel bag was slung over his right shoulder; the satchel contained supplies he wanted to take into the Room of Spirit and Time with him.

All traces of Garlic Junior's attack were gone. The main temple and its smaller counterparts had been rebuilt. New ground tiles replaced those damaged in the fight, and the landscape had been refurbished with healthy plants' and trees.

Yamucha was already on the celestial temple talking with Gokou and Piccolo; all three warriors were dressed in their gi.

"Wow! Piccolo, Gokou, you guys have gotten incredibly powerful! I felt it ten minutes before I got here!"

"Yo, Krillin! What's this about you having students?" Gokou asked the monk, ignoring Krillin's compliment.

"Was it supposed to be a secret?" Yamucha asked defensively when Krillin turned a "big mouth" look his way.

"No, I guess not."

"I'd like to meet them. Yamucha says they're very interesting."

"I bet he did," Krillin said dryly, still scowling at a grinning Yamucha.

"So, what were you guys talking about before?" Krillin asked steering the topic of conversation away from his pupils.

"Gohan," Gokou replied looking and sounding somewhat confused.

"Yes. He jumped in power overnight it seems, after the Mist infected him," Piccolo added, his arms folded over his chest.

"No kidding?"

"Nothing that kid does surprises me!" Yamucha said rubbing the left side of his face.

"Where's Kami-sama?" Krillin asked noticing the god's absence.

"Oh, yeah, Kami wanted to talk with you before you and Yamucha go into the Room. He's waiting in the Temple," Gokou informed the monk.

"Oh… Okay."

Krillin really didn't want to speak with Kami, but left the three warriors and went inside the newly mended Temple regardless.

Kami was indeed waiting for him.

The God of Earth was sitting on his throne, a simple ivory dais far less dramatic then the black twisted affair Garlic had fabricated for himself. Kami's wooden walking staff was leaning against the throne's armrest. The aged Namek's all-knowing gaze was steady as the monk took his time ambling up to the god.

"Hello, Kami-sama."

"Krillin."

A solid obstruction formed over the entranceway of the temple.

The god and the mortal stared at each other speechless.

"This training is useless," Kami said finally.

"I know," Krillin replied.

"Then why are you going into the Room?"

Krillin turned his head slightly away.

"This will be the last time… I'll ever be by their sides," Krillin said with a thin voice. His throat had tightened and he almost couldn't breath.

"King Kold will make planet fall tomorrow, what do you intend to do?"

"You already know what I'm going to do," Krillin said facing the god squarely, his tone verging on the discourteous. "You wouldn't have called me in here otherwise."

Kami stared at Krillin with black judging eyes. Krillin should have felt uneasy under the intensity of the god's glare, but he didn't.

"Very well. You may leave," Kami decreed and then the barrier over the door vanished.

Yamucha broke left and the tight confined beam burned passed him. The taller man stumbled over his own feet and fell to the ground, barely catching himself on his hands and knees before he hit the ground with his face. Krillin fired another ki blast at his friend. Yamucha grunted as he rolled backwards into a backhand spring. The ki exploding where he once lay an instant later.

Yamucha leaped into the air, groaning with the effort, but managed to attain some height, then used super speed in short bursts toward Krillin's position. Sweating from every pore and breathing spare, searing air, Krillin brought up his sore arms, his hands were trembling. The high gravity coupled with his weighted boots, rooted his feet in place.

Krillin emitted three more ki blasts and all of them missed. His arms and legs rebelling against every effort at motion, Krillin was unable to track Yamucha's quick moving form well enough to make a hit, or even a near hit. And just when he was about to try with another, Yamucha phased out of sight. Then a hard arm hooked around Krillin's neck and lifted him off the ground. "That's game," Yamucha declared behind him with labored breath.

The taller man dropped him and they both hit the floor.

"How the hell… did Gokou and the others… last a year in this place?" Yamucha gasped at the blinding white sky above. Krillin and Yamucha were in their sixth month of training in the Room of Spirit and Time. The high gravity and thin atmosphere inside the Room had yet to become anything less then a struggle. Both could barely function after four hours of continuous training. Not a good sign, the two warriors admitted. Piccolo, Tenshinhan, and Chou-zu had adapted to the extreme environment after just three months in the Room of Spirit and Time. Gokou adjusted instantly due in part to his week of training in one hundred times Earth's gravity and his previous stint in the Room.

"They're aliens?" Krillin offered from beside the other man, shrugging even though he knew his companion couldn't see the gesture from where he lay

"That explains Piccolo and Gokou, but Ten and Chou-zu made it a whole year here, too."

"You ready to leave?"

"Of course not," Yamucha exclaimed indignantly. Yamucha sat up from the tugging ground with a grunt, "but I'm starting think we're a couple of pansies."

"So when are we going to start working on you?" Yamucha asked after both men dragged themselves off the ground and onto the portal station where the gravity was normal.

Krillin made his way over to the storage alcove where their food and supplies sat on shelves. He pulled a waxed leather water bag from one of the shelves then turned to Yamucha, holding the bag out to him. Yamucha shook his head, declining Krillin's offer.

"I mean we've been in here for half a year already, and you haven't focused on building your ki yet, just mine."

"Don't worry about it. I'm getting stronger," Krillin replied uncorking the water bag.

The water was warm and un-satisfying. It was impossible to keep anything cold within the dense atmosphere of the pocket dimension. For the thousandth time since they'd enter the strange space, Krillin wished he had brought a Capsule House in with him. At least they'd have a refrigerator and some other modern necessities.

Like grape soda.

But all he remembered to bring with him was a razor, toiletries, and several changes of gi and underwear.

After Krillin had his fill of water, he re-corked the water bag and set it back on one of the shelves next to their food stock

"Yeah, but…"

"I call the bath," Krillin said.

"No way! I need it way more. If you had a nose you'd realize."

"Oh, I know. And I don't have to have a nose to either. You stink so bad it's peeling back my skin."

The months passed and Yamucha became stronger. Eventually the scarred warrior was able to withstand the Room's environment indefinitely after extensive training without strain. Krillin still had trouble after more then nine hours of training. When their year was up, Yamucha had doubled his original strength going in. Krillin, on the other hand, barely increased his power by more then a third.

"Damn, I was sort of hoping to I'd be as strong as Piccolo or Tenshinhan by the time we were done," Yamucha said as he and Krillin changed into the extra gi they'd brought with them. The two were about to exit the Room of Spirit and Time. "But I'm glad we're finally getting out of this torture chamber."

Yamucha hated the Room. It was obvious after their second day inside. But Krillin liked the Room of Spirit and Time—it felt right to him. Krillin didn't know why he found the barren, colorless dimension so… reassuring. But he did.

During the nights—Krillin thought of the times Yamucha went to sleep as nighttime because darkness never took the so-called sky over them—Krillin would stare out at the endless whiteout for hours on end. Until his mind became as still as the white void stretching far beyond the invisible horizon. Here in this place he didn't have to think, or feel. He was free of so much pain here. Krillin was rather sorry to be leaving.

"Yeah, like you ever had a chance of becoming as strong as Piccolo. Ten, maybe, but Piccolo? Come on! Why not hope to surpass Gokou while you're at?" Krillin asked smirking at Yamucha.

"Has anyone ever told you you're one snotty little monk?"

Gokou, Piccolo, Ten and Chou-zu were waiting for the two warriors as they emerged from the Room, so was Kami and Mr. Popo.

Krillin and Yamucha were still ribbing each other good-naturedly when they pushed through the Room's door.

"I'm glad to see you guys," Krillin said cocking his thumb at Yamucha. "If I had to look at scar-face over here for one more day…"

"Yeah, because watching that big, shiny bald head day in day out was any better, right?" Yamucha retorted. "And I was starting to get a crook in my neck from looking down so much, too."

"Oh, yeah, well--"

Kami broke in before Krillin perpetuate the banter. "If you two are finished, you should know that King Kold is only eight hours away from Earth."

Yamucha apologized sheepishly. Krillin just stared at Kami, and said nothing.

"I hope our training was enough," Chou-zu said.

"It will be." Ten assured.

It was easier stealing away from the Lookout then Krillin thought it would be. Again all the warriors went their separate ways: Yamucha left to catch up with Bulma and her folks, Gokou to spend time with Gohan and Chi-Chi, and Ten and Chou-zu flew off to the mountains. Piccolo gave no indication where he was going.

They'd all reunite when King Kold arrived.

Krillin was last to leave. He bid Mr. Popo farewell and ignored Kami altogether. The year he spent inside the Room of Spirit and Time didn't lessen the animosity he felt toward the god.

As he dove from the celestial temple, Krillin passed Karin's Tower. He thought about stopping in to say goodbye to the fighting god and Yajirobi. But Krillin decided against it.

He liked Karin, but hardly knew the kindly feline. And Krillin and Yajirobi weren't exactly close. Besides, other then quick "I'll see you on the battlefield", Krillin hadn't even said goodbye to Gokou, his best friend in the world.

Krillin situated Poi and Kyichi on Master Roshi's island before he left for training on the Lookout. Poi raised Holy Hell about her protracted stay, using some very colorful language that made even Kamesennin blush. Kyichi predictably showed little difference to being left in the old master's care.

Krillin also secretly asked his old master to continue Poi and Kyichi's training in case he didn't come back from fighting King Kold.

In case. I'm becoming quite a good liar, Krillin thought to himself.

He'd only known the two neophytes for only a short time, less then a year, but Krillin still regretted that he wouldn't get to see them reach their full potential. Poi was already gaining strength in leaps and bounds, and Krillin suspected she had the goods to develop into a great fighter—if she ever learned to reign in her unruliness.

He didn't know about Kyichi. Kyichi possessed the skill that Poi lacked, but he didn't have her power, though that may have been due to his age. Still, Krillin was in complete agreement with Senbai: Kyichi was traveling on a dark road. And that made the boy's future uncertain.

Krillin would like to have said goodbye to them as well.

Krillin reached the location an hour later. An arid desert, miles from any inhabited area, that at first seemed devoid of life. But Yamucha said there was life everywhere in the desert. Teeming with scorpions, snakes, insects, and desert rats. The not so desolate wasteland had a rich and diverse ecosystem.

"Ecosystem? What's that?" Krillin had asked Yamucha in the Room.

"Oh, its, uh…Kinda like how things work together in the natural world, how one thing affects another. Basically, the food chain, but on a larger scale. Something like that. When Bulma explained it to me she used bigger words, I barely understood half of what she said."

Krillin landed on a giant rust colored boulder half buried in the dry, hot ground. Its smooth, windblown surface reflected the heat from the sun, and Krillin could feel it baking the air around him.

At first Krillin remembered just bits and pieces of the whirlwind visions Kaiou had given him on Namek. Those pieces became clearer during his stay in the Room of Spirit and Time. One example was that he knew the exact spot where Kold's ship was going to touch down.

And this was the place.

Krillin increased his ki and sat on the rock.

And he waited.

The ship decelerated as it penetrated Earth's atmosphere, friction causing the ship's outer hull to glow like a flaming coal. The saucer shaped craft could be seen for miles around as it made planet fall, yet went largely unnoticed. Except by one lone warrior monk.

Krillin watched the ship descend, silently urging it to hurry up and land already. Krillin sensed King Kold's ship coming long before it reached Earth and he knew his friends had as well. They were probably already on their way.

The craft landed on top of a cluster of tall rock formations, crushing them under its hull. The ground shook hard and thunder resounded through the air. Krillin took off for the craft, once it settled some five hundred meters away from him.

Landing near the spaceship, Krillin heard the whir of unseen machinery as its engines shut down. Except for thick tendrils of coolant steam wafting up from exhaust ports, nothing happen with the ship for several long minutes. The ship just sat there, and Krillin didn't know what was making his heart beat harder: The fact that he was about to die, or the suspense of Kold taking his sweet time coming out.

But Krillin was not afraid. He'd made up his mind a year ago. And if things turned out the way he hoped, no one else from Earth would be joining him in heaven.

Finally, the airlock on the top of the craft slid open and a throng of soldiers swarmed into view.

Two dozen in all, the troops were dressed in various models of Saiyan-jin battle armor, and equipped with laser weapons strapped to their right forearms. Some also wore round white helmets with scouters built into them. While others went without helmets and just donned individual scouter units.

Krillin soon found himself surrounded when the soldiers touched down. They trained their weapons on him in a loose manner, giving the impression that they didn't consider Krillin a threat. But the soldier's eyes told a whole different story. Krillin saw battle hardened warriors staring back at him. Their sloppiness was an act; they'd shoot him if he blinked wrong.

The huge power Krillin felt inside the ship was on the move. Krillin looked away from the soldiers and up at the airlock. A horned crown emerged first, shortly followed by a purple and pink face, then a huge Saiyan-jin armored torso. Soon King Kold's lower body came into view, his six-foot long pink, ring-lined tail swished back and forth under his black cape. Then two lengthy legs and bootless three toed feet ended the giant's appearance.

The bare purple skin of the Changeling's arms and legs, exposed by sleeveless upper body armor, and short black trunks, practically glowed in the sun as he landed in the center of his men. And right in front of Krillin.

Neither Kold's stature or uncanny resemblance to Freezer surprised Krillin—he'd noted it in the visions—as he craned his head up and up to look at the Changeling's face. The behemoth's scouterless eyes scanned the rust-gold desert; he wore a mirthless smile. Kold, as far as Krillin could tell, had yet to acknowledge his presence, though they stood less then nine feet apart.

"Who are you?" Kold asked Krillin without looking at him.

"My name is Krillin," The monk said, "I killed your son."

King Kold looked down at the tiny creature standing before him, his purple face breaking into an even bigger smile. "So, you're that Earthling?"

The bald human knodded somberly, his lips pressed into a thin line.

"Give me a reading," Kold ordered keeping his eyes on Krillin.

A soldier stepped away from his comrades and pressed a button on his scouter. After a few seconds, two consecutive high-pitched beeps sounded. "90,000ke's, sire." The soldier announced.

"90,000 ki ergs. Now how did someone so weak murder my son?" Kold asked. When Krillin didn't answer, Kold's smile disappeared and was replaced with a more curious expression. "I suppose it doesn't really matter. But tell me, why are you here standing so bravely before me?"

"To beg for your mercy."

"My… mercy?"

"Mer-cy," Kold repeated, accentuating each syllable. Tasting the noun in his mouth like it was a morsel from some new, exotic meal.

"I don't ask it for myself," Krillin went on to say, adamant to make his proposal in as calm a voice as he could muster. "I ask mercy for the Earth and its people. I killed Freezer, I should be the only one to suffer."

Kold's smile returned, "And suffer you shall. But why would you feel it necessary to plead for the life of this world?"

The human closed his eyes and took a deep breath, "Because…because, you destroyed Namek."

"You heard about that, did you? In fact, you seem to be quite well informed."

"King Kold sir, there are multiple incoming ki's," a soldier announced.

No, not yet!

"Friends of yours?" Kold asked Krillin.

"…Yes."

"On your knees."

Krillin quickly obeyed.

"You really care for this world, don't you?" Kold asked the tiny man kneeling before him, his voice dark and suave.

"Y-y-yes," Krillin stammered out his answer.

"And your friends… Do you care for them as well?"

Krillin nodded, he couldn't talk anymore; he didn't trust his voice at all.

Kold loved this. It was rare to find noble creatures like this man who had murdered his son. Of course such peoples rarely made the dangerous and hearty journey into space. And those that did, well, they were culled right away. The universe was too harsh for their kind. It was often Kold's pleasure to prove that fact to them.

This small Earthling before him was weak, not just physically, but in every other way as well. After only speaking to the human for several minutes, Kold knew he could break him. It almost disgusted the Changeling how simple it was going to be. At least Saiyans, Kold had to admit—from what he'd learned from his dearly departed son and observed during the months he spent torturing Vegita—were a challenge to break. Saiyans refused to bend even an inch, even if it meant the destruction of everything they loved.

Pride was all to a Saiyan.

But this Human, and the rest of his kind, possessed no such mettle. Yes, Kold knew how to crush this little man for what he'd done to his child.

"Then I offer you a choice," Kold said. "I will spare this beloved world of yours,"

Krillin raised his head, hope glittering in his dark eyes, just under his tears, "You will?"

"Yes. But it is entirely up to you if I show this leniency."

"I'll do it. I'll do anything!" Krillin said with a husky, eager voice. Krillin looked as though a miracle was about to occur.

"Anything, eh? We'll see."

Kold looked passed the short human and surveyed a nearby bluff where the other Earthlings that had shown up moments ago stood watching their conversation. "I will spare this planet, but I will kill your friends."

"No… Please…"

"I'm afraid your life is too small a pittance and will not satisfy me. Others must be punished as well. If not your race, then your friends."

"Please…"

"It's either your comrades or the planet. Choose."

"What?"

"Choose. Your friends will die with the world anyway. But if you tell me to just kill them and leave Earth alone, I will. Ask me to extinguish them."

"I can't… You can't make me pick like that… I won't!"

"Then Earth dies. Your friends die. And I'll still take you and torture you until I'm sick of hearing your screams. You won't last half as long as Vegita, but it will have to suffice."

"You'll destroy the Earth anyway," Krillin said just above a whisper, his eyes wide with horror. Not because he was being forced to make this sick choice, but because he'd already decided. Like so often of late, Krillin's choices were obvious.

"Most likely, but I can promise that I will allow this world another fifty, maybe, a hundred years," Kold laughed merrily. "Hell, it's even likely I may forget about this mud ball by then.

"What will it be? Which do you choose?"

"Do it," Krillin said in a tiny voice.

"I'm sorry? I didn't quite catch that?"

"Do it," Krillin said again, louder then before.

"Do what?"

Krillin raised his head and through gritted teeth he said, "Kill them."

"Beg me."

"Beg me!"

"Please, kill them."

"Done."

King Kold turned and shouted at the ship, "Bring them out!"

Krillin and Kold watched as two more of Kold's soldiers' rose out of the spaceship. They carried with them a man who was encased in a metal triangular container of some kind from the neck down. It took several seconds before Krillin recognized the man, and that was due largely to the newcomer's distinctive hairstyle.

"Vegita?"

The Saiyan Prince glared back at Krillin as he and the two soldiers set down on the ground.

Vegita's facial features were angular, to the point of being concave. His black eyes were sunken into their sockets and his high cheekbones jaunted out sharply from his face. His unhealthy, waxen flesh was stretched tightly over them. Only Vegita's eyes seemed alive, ignited with the same fierceness Krillin had always seen in them before. If not for his eyes and faint ki signature, Krillin might have mistaken the Saiyan for a corpse.

Yet another soldier ascended through the airlock, and in his arms he held a very frightened Namek boy. Krillin nearly jumped to his feet upon recognizing the child. "Dende!"

"You know these two?" Kold asked. "Are they also friends of yours?"

Without thinking Krillin knodded.

"Excellent! That's two more added to the list."

"Wait!" Krillin exclaimed the brief moment of happiness he had felt rush through him shattered as the implications of what King Kold said sunk in. But before he could refute, two more soldiers came out of Kold's ship. They shared the burden of carrying a capsule that was five feet in length, and three feet in diameter. The bottom part was white but the top was made of a translucent material.

Krillin's eyes grew to the size of dinner plates when the last two soldiers landed and he saw what inhabited the cylindrical container.

Krillin's vision distorted and the world spun out of control. His body felt light, like he was floating away, the unreality of what he was seeing almost tricked his mind into believing he was dreaming. But the monk wasn't dreaming.

Krillin clutched and violently shook his head no; trying desperately to deny the truth as the tube's glass-like lid flipped up and the small white and purple figure inside sat up.

"I don't understand," Krillin said, "I killed him."

"Yes, you did." Kold acknowledged.

"You cannot begin to imagine the sciences I had to employ to yield the results you see before us," Kold went on to say. "Forcing the transformations alone were a massive undertaking. Never mind reattaching the head. But the most difficult part of the procedure was installing the computerized brain."

Freezer, or rather the reanimated corpse of Freezer, swung its legs off the capsule and stepped onto the sandy ground. The cyborg zombie's head was bowed slightly, and its dull white in black eyes stared at nothing. It didn't even spare a glance at the individual responsible for its current state of being.

"I thought it only apropos that my son should in some way, shape or form, participate in the revenge I will have upon you," Kold said to the small man who was still squeezing his head between his hands.

Krillin felt an invisible force grab him and lift him from his knees and into the air. Forcible straightening Krillin's small, compact body so that his arms were glued to his sides. Making Krillin face in the direction where his friends were.

"Now… Krillin is it? I want you to see this. Whilst this empty shell enacts out my vengeance, I will watch you as you watch your friends die one by one."

She watches from a distance, her scanners tuned to their highest resolution. She ignores the players and focuses solely on King Kold's ship. Her mind calculating the amounts of raw materials and technology she'll be able derive from the craft. Unfastening one of the pockets of her jacket she reaches inside and pulls out a paper-thin microchip the size of an average playing card, and wirelessly reconfigures its perimeters to accommodate the ship's mass. Nothing else was her concern.